This article is part 3 of 4 of the chapter about grief from my soon to be released book – Suddenly a Caregiver. I was the primary family caregiver for my wife who battled brain cancer for nearly four years. The chapter – Grieving – shares the grieving and recovery experience. I hope my experience provides a source of learning for you.
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Read Suddenly a Caregiver – Grieving (Part 1 of 4)
Read Suddenly a Caregiver – Grieving (Part 2 of 4)
Many patients with terminal illness, and family members or friends who care for them often recognize that death will come eventually. They then begin to anticipate the grief. In the case of Lynne’s diagnosis, my research led me to realize the incredible odds against surviving glioblastoma. Despite those odds, I did hold out hope that this case would become an exception, rather than the rule. However, as I reflect back, I realize that I began to anticipate grief while holding on to hope. At some point, I believe Lynne also recognized that the end of her fight was approaching. I believe through her awareness that she helped me prepare for that event. In my case, I believe the anticipatory grief helped me to make the adjustments needed when Lynne passed.
Societal practices try to help people through the grieving process. Funerals provide one such practice. Writing public death notices, writing obituaries, and other traditions contribute to the acceptance of the loss. These help us to face the reality of the loss, which describes a necessary step in the recovery process. Discussing our pain, sharing memories, and sharing experiences help us to face and work through the pain of loss. Recovering from grief includes adjusting to the new environment without a friend, child, parent, spouse, or other loved one. Finally, I hope that we begin to invest anew in our lives while maintain the memories we have of the one who passed.
With the introduction of the Internet, we discover new ways that people can use online communication and build relationships to facilitate the process of grief. In a later chapter, I discuss my use of technology and the Internet during Lynne’s illness. I maintained a blog to facilitate communication with friends and family. The day Lynne died, I posted a message on my blog, and on that same day, over 500 people viewed the message. That post was one-step toward addressing the reality of the loss. As I researched for this chapter, I also located grief forums, where people exchange their situations with other people, mostly strangers but strangers experiencing the grief caused by a loss of their own. The anonymity provided by the online forums supports people in opening up, venting their frustration, anger, and other emotions. It also provides other people an opportunity to show support, encouragement, and provide advice.
Preparation for Grief
Preparation for grief was an important piece of the recovery from my loss. When I say, preparation, you might think that it started during Lynne’s illness. I believe that for me, it started much earlier and demonstrated itself in various ways. Because my dad served as a preacher, exposure to death occurred earlier and more often to me than for most young people. Like most, I lived life as if it were going to last forever; however, the exposure to death created an impression on me. The exposure to death helped me to realize that this life is temporary. This mindset helped me to share my appreciation of others before it was too late. Too many times, I heard others speak about their regrets concerning not sharing how much they loved someone or appreciated his or her example until after the death. I feel that is a pity. I decided to ensure that I tried to share my appreciation with those I cared about while they were still living.
Preparation for loss also included setting aside any grudges, anger, bad feelings, and other things that most of us would regret holding onto after the loss of someone close to us. This also includes apologizing to someone for some wrong that we caused. I discovered that stepping up and apologizing when I was wrong was much better than holding onto that wrong eventually causing a regret following the loss of that special person. Avoiding the apology for the wrong might cause regret eventually, following the loss of that special person. This type of preparation averts the regrets we often feel during a loss, whether the loss is sudden, or resulting from a long illness.
In the next part of this series, I will share information about some lessons learned by me and my family.
Please share your comments, thoughts, and suggestions.